Multi-Table Tournament Reviews 2006-11-05
In our first Weekly Shuffle, we reviewed the multi-table tournaments (MTTs) at five major online poker rooms. Nearly a year later, we're reviewing four more. Two of these sites were reviewed last year, though the multi-table tournaments at these sites are now very different since these poker rooms no longer accept US players. These sites' multi-table tournaments are reviewed based on several variables, the two most important of which are structure and tournament selection.
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A tournament's structure largely determines to what extent luck will be a factor in the outcome of the tournament. Factors considered when examining a tournament's structure include starting stack sizes, rate of blind increases, blind level intervals, and hands played per hour. More skill is needed to play large stacks than small stacks (in relation to blinds). So when a tournament is structured to have large starting stacks and slow blind increases, the skilled players have an increased chance at winning the tournament.
A site with a good structure rating indicates that it maximizes the value of skill and minimizes the role of luck in a tournament. When a site has poor structure, players will quickly find themselves involved in a game of "all-in or fold" poker. When this occurs, one's skill matters very little. The game devolves into a contest of who simply is dealt the most strong starting hands.
These sites are also reviewed based on their tournament selection. We evaluate this by examining the number of tournaments offered and the variety of buy-ins and games available.
Pacific Poker MTT Review
Tournament Selection: 74
Typical Starting Stack: varies
Typical Starting Blinds: 10-20
Typical Blind Intervals: varies
Small buy-ins and turbo blind structures characterize many of Pacific Poker's multi-table tournaments. There is very little consistency between the various tournaments offered at this site. Most online poker rooms offer the same starting stack and blind intervals for nearly all of their tournaments. 888 Poker lacks this uniformity and instead assigns different features to many of their tournaments.
The majority of MTTs at Pacific are priced at, or below, $10+$1. This includes many tournaments featuring buy-ins of less than one dollar. Pacific should be attractive to those interested in playing tournaments with ultra low buy-ins. All of the sub-$1 tournaments come with guaranteed prize pools that frequently overlay. Usually players only supply around 50-75% of the prize pool for these micro stakes tournaments, while Pacific Poker covers the rest to meet the tournament's guaranteed prize pool.
Another way in which Pacific Poker caters to small stakes players is by offering many of their tournaments with a turbo structure. It is not uncommon to see a tournament with three minute blind levels or ten second maximum decision making time. These formats result in short-lasting tournaments that resemble more of a lottery than a game of skill.
Micro-stakes tournaments aren't the only ones that fail to draw enough entrants to meet the guaranteed prize pool. 888 Poker has historically been a good site to find MTT overlays. Each day, there are two or three $10,000 guaranteed tournaments (usually with a buy-in of $12 or $15) that often overlay.
All of Pacific Poker's MTTs are Texas Hold'em tournaments. Each Sunday, the site spreads a $65+$5 tournament with a guaranteed prize pool of $50,000. This is the largest weekly tournament on the site.
Party Poker MTT Review
Tournament Selection: 84
Typical Starting Stack: 3,000
Typical Starting Blinds: 20-40
Typical Blind Intervals: 15 minutes
Before the United States passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), Party Poker was the largest online poker room. Along with this came massively large tournament fields and equally impressive prize pools. Since the UIGEA, Party Poker (in the company of a few other networks) has ceased servicing American players to avoid potentially violating the law. As a result of this, Party Poker's MTTs now draw a shadow of the entrants they once used to.
Still, even in the absence of their once enormous American player base, Party Poker is still a very large poker room. The days of 2,500 players showing up for a random $20 tournament on a Tuesday night have come and gone, but such tournaments still draw entrants reaching into the several hundreds. Their $200,000 Sunday Guaranteed tournament has seen some struggles since the signing of the UIGEA. The $200+$15 event has paid out house-money on more than one occasion after it failed to draw 1,000 entrants.
Through a nice diversity of tournaments, Party Poker is the best place to enjoy MTTs of all the non-US facing poker rooms. Players at all levels should be able to find tournaments that meet their wants. A wide range of buy-ins and games are offered. A nightly $20+$2 Pot-Limit Omaha with rebuys game might appeal to European players especially. They also offer $2 turbo rebuy tournaments and a multitude of $11-$55 buy-in freezeout tournaments. The structure used by Party Poker is one of the best. They have fine tuned the perfect blend of giving players ample time to enjoy the game while maintaining enough pressure to ensure that the tournament doesn't drag on to the point of annoyance.
Titan Poker MTT Review
Tournament Selection: 73
Typical Starting Stack: 1,500
Typical Starting Blinds: 10/20
Typical Blind Intervals: 10 minutes
Most of the tournaments at Titan Poker feature small fields. Their most popular daily tournament is a $10+$1 rebuy event with a $7,500 guaranteed prize pool. This tournament generally draws around 350 entrants. From there, the field sizes go down, though most cash tournaments still lure at least 100 players. This makes Titan Poker a great site for players seeking out small-field MTTs.
One nice feature of Titan Poker's MTTs is the large number of daily tournaments with guaranteed prize pools. Occasionally, these tournaments overlay. Even when they do not, it is still nice having an idea of how much money will ultimately be in the prize pool long before play begins. There are very few online poker rooms with as many daily guaranteed tournaments as Titan Poker.
It should be noted that many of the guaranteed tournaments feature rebuys and add-ons. Titan Poker does not do a good job of making it crystal clear which tournaments are R+As and which are normal freezeouts. Players should be aware of this and be sure to know what tournament they are signing up for before play begins.
The tournament structure at Titan Poker is very middle-of-the-road when compared to other online poker rooms. Due to the small number of players on the network, non-hold'em games are rarely spread in MTT form. When they are, they often fail to draw more than just a small handful of participants.
Everest Poker MTT Review
Tournament Selection: 79
Typical Starting Stack: 100
Typical Starting Blinds: 0.5-1
Typical Blind Intervals: 10 minutes
Everest Poker is the only one of these four sites that was not directly affected by the UIGEA. They've had their door shut to American players long before President Bush signed the bill. This is a fairly solid site to play MTTs, especially for new players.
The simplicity of their MTT lobby makes Everest Poker's MTTs more attractive than many other sites. Most other poker rooms have many satellites to so many different tournaments with various stages and rounds mixed in amongst freezeouts and rebuys and freerolls and players point tournaments that it can often be a massive headache trying to keep it all straight. Everest Poker's tournament lobby is quite appealing due to its simplicity. There are a small handful of satellites, but more than 80% of their MTTs are regular cash tournaments.
To help new players feel at home, they run several "Chip and a Chair" tournaments each day. These tournaments have a $1 buy-in with no entry fee. Like Titan Poker, many of Everest Poker's MTTs have guaranteed prize pools. However, these tournaments rarely overlay.
This is not a good site for players who enjoy mid-to-large buy-in tournaments. Nearly all of the cash tournaments cost $10 or less to play. However, there is at least one tournament each day with a buy-in of $20 or more with a guaranteed prize pool of $5,000 or more. The typical field size for an MTT on Everest Poker is around 150 players.
The weakest component of Everest's MTTs is the tournament structure. Most tournaments start players off with a stack of 100 chips. While the structure depends on much more than just the amount of chips one starts with, getting just 100 chips when most sites offer well over 1,000 is a bit of a buzzkill. The blinds start out at 0.5-1, meaning each player has only 100 big blinds to begin play. One hundred big blinds to start isn't necessarily horrible, but the ten minute level increases do not help. After just ten minutes, a player's stack is effectively cut in half when the blinds increase to 1-2. This less-than-wonderful structure should add to Everest's appeal to new players, as luck plays a much larger factor in determining tournament winners on this site than most others.